Category Archives: family

Some thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  1. We gave tickets to the boys and a BB-8 droid this morning.  They were up doing their thing and I reminded them they forgot (gasp) one gift.  They were shocked when they saw the tickets.  Then Oliver started to cry.  Really cry.  Heartbreakingly cry.  He saw Theatre 12 printed on his ticket and took that to mean he had to be 12 to watch the movie.  Once we had a that worked out, it was okay.
  2. The boys loved BB-8.  They were recording holographic images and having a blast.  The dog on the other hand saw a ball with a head on it and wasn’t impressed on being replaced as the centre of attention.
  3. As we drove to the Scotiabank Theatre we were early, Oliver wasn’t impressed.  When we parked, he leaps out of the car and starts to run to the theatre.  Apparently he was excited.
  4. I enjoyed the larger roll that Chewbacca played.
  5. It’s nice to see them bring back a swashbuckling character again in Poe Dameron
  6. I thought Kylo Ren was one of the worst villians of all of the Star Wars movies.   I did enjoy seeing him get his butt kicked by Rey.  I know he was wounded by when Finn scored some shots on him, you knew he was mostly the mask and nothing else.   This was the fallen Jedi that drove Luke into exile?
  7. Also, what is the purpose of Kylo Ren.  He didn’t really command anything.  General Hux was in charge and felt comfortable in challenging him.  Vader would have force choked him twice before the movie had reached half way through.  Ren seemed to struggle with more psychological issues than any of the other fallen Jedi.
  8. Yes it’s a franchise reboot but it needed to be.  Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, the midget who plays R2D2, they are all old and it’s hard to base a trilogy around them.
  9. How many times do you have to have your giant space weapon destroyed before you adopt a new strategy?  It’s like the dark side is controlled by Saskatoon City Council.  Stop making the same mistakes over and over again.
  10. Why so few Rebel pilots still?  The Rebel fleet is of a decent size yet they always keep throughing fairly insignificant amounts of fighters at the Empire/First Order when facing existenial threats.  A massive weapon that can destroy the galaxy you call home?  Let’s send 30 fighters against it.  I know Y-Wings have been around since the Clone Wars but a fighter bomber would have been incredibly helpful here.  It’s like the U.S. military with the F-35.  One kind of fighter should do it all…
  11. I don’t really get Leia in this movie.  Yes decades of war has been tough but she ignores Chewbacca who she has known since she was captured on the Death Star (she also didn’t give him a medal in Episode IV’s finale) and then now comforts Rey who barely knew Han Solo rather than Chewie who has known him and been his best friends for decades? 
  12. Then despite the entire movie being a desperate struggle to find Luke Skywalker and get his help again, she sends Rey to meet him with Chewbacca and doesn’t go herself?
  13. It was worth the price of admission and in two years I’ll be doing it all over again.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to those of you who are searching the web looking for something to read.

Quiet night around here.  It was my first day back at work after the unpleasantness of the previous week.  To be honest, I would have been far better off back in bed recovering.  I came home tonight in tremendous pain and I don’t think a lot was accomplished by me being at work but lessons learned.

The best part of the day was that it was over at four.  Wendy picked me up and we came home and I went to be for a while.  She ordered pizza and let me sleep until around 6:00 p.m.  We opened our stockings, inside was one of these. 

The Minnion, Kevin

Kevin is now in charge of the wifi.

Wendy gave me a new netbook (which is currently upgrading from WIndows 8.1 to 10).  I missed the entire Windows 8 experience and in the 5 minutes I played with it, I can see why so many of you hated it.  There was a new wireless mouse in there.

The boys got me a netbook bag as well as some hiking stuff.  They also gave me a bunch of books on everything from war journalism to The Generals by Thomas E. Ricks, a book I have wanted since it was released and I read this article in The Atlantic.  It will make some great early 2016 reading.  

All of them got together and gave me a Ricoh Theta S which should be a lot of fun.  If you have never heard of a Ricoh Theta S, it takes 360 degree spherical images, a kind of a virtual reality camera that is about the size of a Nintendo Wii controller.  It should be a lot of fun to explore with.

Probably the gift I needed the most was a 500 lumen lantern that Oliver gave me for camping this summer.  On a day where July seems very far away and the idea of hiking into the mountains seems even further, I really, really appreciated it.

Mark wrote about his day here.

Aunt Beth

I had a great aunt named Elizabeth.  The only reason I knew that is that it was on her Christmas stocking.  I always knew her as Aunt Beth.  She was my grandmother’s sister.  Never married, a chain smoker’s chain smoker, and staunch New Democrat.  She adopted our family growing up as hers and so every Christmas she would come down from Regina (she lived in the senior’s complex that looks like a giant suitcase – you know the one I am talking about) to stay in Saskatoon for a couple of weeks.  She also came down for her birthday and all of our birthdays.  Often for part of the summer and almost always for Labour Day weekend although for that I don’t know why.  Probably to see us off for school.

She travelled the world in between those trips so when I say she lived in Regina, that may have been an overstatement.  Since she did live alone, she never really got the family dynamic down.  She used to drive me crazy when on a Friday night and I was getting read to watch Miami Vice, she would come into our living room and and turn to Dallas.  I would just sit there and quietly put my socks back on.

Of course her entire extended family other than myself and my mom were New Democrats.  Strong New Democrats and union organizers.  Being part of a family where debating politics was a passion, having Aunt Beth here was great as there was a true to life New Democrat in our house who was both as obnoxious as my mom and I were as really funny as well.

The best debate was over Christmas and it was never spoken.  Being Progressive Conservatives, we would have a Christmas card from Grant Devine and Brian Mulroney over our mantle.  That wasn’t going to cut it for Aunt Beth.  So after one year of enduring this, the next one there was a card from Ed Broadbent and Al Blakeney on our mantle, placed just in front of the Devine/Mulroney cards.  The best part was that we never saw Aunt Beth put her cards in front of the other ones and she never saw me put the conservative cards back out front.  It would discretely change several times a day over well over 100 times over the holidays.   I never acknowledged by any of us publically other than a little snicker whenever someone was really discrete with it.  This went on from 1987-1991 when she passed away.

It’s funny but as partisan as all of us were back then, I don’t think a single harsh word was ever spoken about each other’s politics (lots of jokes though), we kept the intense arguments for what was important (I remember getting off the phone with her and she was livid and wanted to speak to my mom.  She had just gone to the Roughriders game and it was a blowout and she wanted to yell about it).  That was the only time I remember her getting angry over anything.

I still miss her.  She was a lot of fun to be around but the biggest lesson she taught me was the family and respect was far more important than making a political point to someone.  We had great talks about all sorts of policies and different world views but it was never personal (well the jokes were) but having your Christmas card in front of the other guys was really important.

Christmas and Holiday Gift Guide for 5-8 Year Old | 2015 Edition

Having raised Mark to the point where he is now in high school and with Oliver in Grade Two, I have some experience in Christmas shopping for school aged boys.  You can read my gift guide for teenagers here and my ideas for what to get a school aged boy below.   If you have any other suggestions or ideas, let me know in the comments.

LEGO Superheroes Batman: Man-Bat Attack

LEGO Superheroes Batman: Man-Bat Attack

Includes Batman, Man-Bat and Night Wing (who used to be Robin). You child will be saving Gotham non-stop with this set.

Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet

Fire Kids Edition, 7" Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB, Blue Kid-Proof Case

  • Not a toy, a full-featured Fire tablet with a 7" IPS display and front and rear cameras. Add a microSD card for up to 128 GB of additional storage.
  • 2-year worry-free guarantee: if they break it, return it and we’ll replace it for free. No questions asked.
  • Unlimited, free access to 10,000 kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited included
  • Best-in-class parental controls allow you to manage usage limits, content access, and educational goals

From $89 at Amazon

LEGO Super Heroes Daily Bugle Showdown

LEGO Super Heroes Daily Bugle Showdown

This time it is Spiderman saving The Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jamieson from certain doom.  The only question I have is, will Peter Parker get a picture of Spiderman.

$40 from Amazon

Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster

Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster

Nerf guns are all over our house.  There is nothing quite like wandering down into my basement and being ambushed by both my kids.  If you want to add to their arsenal of fun Nerf weapons that are good inside and out, consider the Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster.  Five bullets and lots of fun.

Only $28 at Amazon

Franklin Sports Indoor 2-in-1 Goal Set

Franklin Sports Indoor 2-in-1 Goal Set

There are a great gift.  Indoor hockey played on your knees has been a Canadian tradition for decades.  So has mothers complaining about having to patch the knees of pants.  Of course with them being sized or indoor use, they are perfect for when it is too cold to play outside.

$36 at Amazon

Lincoln Logs Classic Edition Tin

Lincoln Logs Classic Edition Tin

The old classic is still around. It includes 86 all wood pieces.

LEGO Super Heroes The Batcave

LEGO Super Heroes The Batcave

If you don’t have your own Batcave, this is the second best thing.

$129 at Amazon

Star Wars R2D2 Projection Alarm Clock

Star Wars R2D2 Projection Alarm Clock

How cool is this?  An R2-D2 that projects the time onto the walls. “Help me Obi-Wan, you are our only hope of waking up on time.”

LEGO Kids Star Wars Storm Trooper Mini-Figure Alarm Clock

 

A great option for the kid who struggles to wakLEGO Star Wars Stormtrooper Figurine Alarm Clocke up is the Lego Star Wars Storm Trooper alarm clock. Plus nothing helps you sleep well than knowing you are beside an elite trooper who lost a key battle to a bunch of Ewoks.

The stories of Obi-Wan Kenobi / Darth Vader / Luke Skywalker by Ryder Windham.

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Nintendo New 3DS XL

New Nintendo 3DS XL

The New Nintendo 3DS XL system combines next-generation portable gaming with super-stable 3D technology and added control features. Take 3D photos, connect with friends, and enhance your gaming experiences with added amiibo support. The New Nintendo 3DS XL system plays all Nintendo DS games. Nintendo DS games will not appear in 3D. AC Adapter sold separately.

Batman Kid-Safe Headphones

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Kid Safe headphones have a volume limiter meaning that your child will not be at risk of hearing damage.  Over the ear design also means that they won’t get headaches either.  It’s a great add on to the Kindle Fire for Kids or the Nintendo 3DS XL

Risk: The Game of Global Domination

Risk, The Game of Global Domination

Despite the game being for players 10 and older, Oliver has been loving the game for a couple of years. Instead of getting your child a game that only they will like for a year or two, why not start them playing some games the entire family can play for a lifetime?

Bachmann Trains Royal Gorge Ready-to-Run HO Train Scale Train Set

Bachmann Trains Royal Gorge Ready-to-Run HO Train Scale Train Set

Remember your first H0 model train set?  How about a set that is modelled after  Colorado’s oldest scenic line?  It combines rich history, spectacular views and stylish accommodations into a train that takes you on a 24-mile journey through the 1,000 Feet deep Royal Gorge. Passengers travel alongside the Arkansas River on a ribbon of rail for an up-close nature show deep in the canyon, observing bald eagles, blue heron, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and flora native to the gorge.

How much fun would any kid have opening this set on Christmas morning?

Hohner 1/2 Sized Classical Guitar

Hohner 1/2 Sized Classical Guitar

The Hohner is a handcrafted classical guitar with an Agathis top back and sides. This wood match-up creates a crisp texture to the overall sound of the instrument. The smaller scale of this instrument (considered 1/2 sized) is specially designed with the younger player in mind and is highly recommended for the players that are starting between the ages of 5-9. This instrument also comes equipped with light gauge nylon strings for easier fingering as to not discourage the first time player.

Utility Belt with Micro Spy Tools like a Micro Ear Light, Micro Listener, Micro Motion Alarm and Invisible Ink Pen on every surveillance mission

Utility Belt with Micro Spy Tools

The coolest utility belt that doesn’t belong to Batman.

Spy Gear Walkie Talkies with a 2 mile range

Spy Gear - Ultra Range Walkie Talkies

Because every great adventure needs a team and a two mile radius is very, very impressive.

More Holiday Gift Guides on JordonCooper.com can be found hereHoliday Gift Guides

Christmas and Holiday Gift Guide for Your Brother in Law | 2015 Edition

It is Wendy again with my second Christmas gift guide of 2015. So you may have heard of Jordon’s brother Lee.  Lee is a great brother to Jordon, great brother-in-law to me, and an even better uncle to Mark and Oliver.  If you have a brother-in-law like Lee, here is some Christmas and holiday gift ideas for him.

Generation Kill

Generation Kill on BLU-RAY

Generation Kill is a television miniseries produced for HBO, based on the 2004 book of the same name by Evan Wright about his experience as an embedded reporter with the U.S. Marine Corps’ 1st Reconnaissance Battalion during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was adapted for television by David Simon, Ed Burns and Evan Wright.  Jordon and Mark loved it when they saw it.   So will your brother-in-law.

Available at Amazon for $23

Sennheiser HD 202 II Professional Headphones

Sennheiser HD 202 II Professional Headphones

The Sennheiser HD202II are closed, dynamic hi-fi stereo headphones. Good insulation against ambient noise and a deep bass response make them the ideal companion for DJs – or anyone who likes to listen to modern, powerful music without disturbing others. High efficiency drivers for maximum performance.  They are some amazing headphones for a really inexpensive price.

DJI Phantom 3 Standard Quadcopter Drone with 2.7K HD Video Camera

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Get him a remote control quadcopter controlled using an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet.  You can record 2.7k Ultra high-definition live video streaming & recording to smartphone or tablet while flying which a wide variety of preprogrammed cinematic effects.  Plus it is a remote controlled helicopter.  How much fun will he have with that?

Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint

Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint

Winners of the World Championship BBQ Cook-Off for six years in a row and with hundreds of other contest ribbons as well, nobody does barbecue better than Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama. Chris Lilly, executive chef of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q and great-grandson-in-law of Big Bob himself, now passes on the family secrets in this quintessential guide to barbecue.

From dry rubs to glazes and from sauces to slathers, Lilly gives the lowdown on Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q’s award-winning seasonings and combinations. You?ll learn the unique flavors of different woods and you?ll get insider tips on creating the right heat?be it in a charcoal grill, home oven, or backyard ground pit. Then, get the scoop on pulled pork, smoked beef brisket, pit-fired poultry, and, of course, ribs.

Magellan eXplorist 310 Waterproof Hiking GPS

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The Magellan eXplortst 310 GPS receiver provides essential outdoor navigation with a high-resolution colour screen, waterproof design, paperless geocaching, and superior mapping, including preloaded World Edition and upload able map capability.  Jordon has one and loves it.  Your brother-in-law will love his as well every time that he leaves the road.  Make sure you include a Pelican 1050 waterproof case for $26.

Dartboard in Oak Finish Cabinet

Dartboard in Oak Finish Cabinet

The board, which comes housed in a solid oak cabinet, is made of a high-grade, “self-healing” sisal that looks smooth and lasts for years. Scoring is handled by the pair of chalk scoreboards–one on the inside of each door–that make it easy to tally scores for several players at once. And below each chalkboard sits a shelf that holds a single set of brass darts (included), so you needn’t worry about misplacing the darts between games. It’s the oak cabinet that really stands out, however, thanks to its durable finger-joint construction and light oak finish.

The cabinet not only hides your board from view when you’re not playing and protects your wall from errant darts when you are, but also looks great amidst both traditional and modern furnishings. The cabinet, which measures 18.5 by 20 by 2.5 inches (W x H x D) when closed.  Plus its better that he is throwing things at his walls rather than your walls.

Dynamite Fire-Starter Crate

Dynamite Fire-Starter Crate

Invented in 1866 by Alfred Nobel, dynamite’s cylindrical shape perfectly fit down the drilling holes used in mining operations. When the charges were set, the now-famous phrase “fire in the hole” was cried to warn miners of the coming blast. Though the contents of this sturdy wood crate will not move mountains, they will start your fireplace. One look at the realistic “dynamite” crate will have family and friends looking twice. Each cedar wood crate contains 20, 8″L x 1-1/4″W, fire-starter sticks. They are made of paraffin and sawdust for a long, hot burn. Each stick will burn approximately 30 minutes setting ablaze even the most stubborn wood.

Plus there is the joy that comes from yelling, “Fire in the hole” every time he lights a fire.

JetBoil Personal Cooking System

JetBoil Personal Cooking System

If your brother-in-law is an outdoors type, help him a little extra fun to his outdoor cooking adventures with the Jetboil Flash personal cooking system. The all-in-one Flash combines an adjustable stainless-steel burner and a 1-liter FluxRing cooking vessel in a single compact unit.

The all-in-one Flash cooking system boils 2 cups of water for cocoa, coffee, instant soup, or other meals.

To use, simply add water or liquid to the 1-liter cooking cup and fix it to the burner. Within two minutes, the Flash will provide two cups of boiling water for cocoa, coffee, instant soup, or a gourmet freeze-dried meal. It’s easy, convenient, and fun. Plus, everything you need stacks and stores inside the FluxRing cooking cup, including the burner and fuel canister.

Victorinox Handyman Swiss Army Knife

Victorinox Handyman Swiss Army Knife

If your brother-in-law is going to stop by and be helpful, he needs a knife that is up to the past.  The Handyman Swiss Army Knife is that tool.

If the brother-in-law that you are shopping for is into camping and the outdoors, check out the Christmas and Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoorsmen and Adventurers  or my guide for the men in your life.

So another Christmas Gift Guide is done.  Hope you find it useful.  To read all of the other Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides, check out the list here.  If you have comments or suggestions, let me know in the comments below.

Click here for more holiday gift guides on jordoncooper.comHoliday Gift Guides

Winter is almost here

I read this in The StarPhoenix today.  It was enough that I wanted to cancel my subscription. 

A special winter weather statement has been issued by Environment Canada for the City of Saskatoon.

According to a warning posted Monday afternoon on the Environment Canada website, an “intense low pressure system with a strong cold front will sweep across Saskatchewan Wednesday bringing an abrupt end to the mild November weather.”

Behind the cold front, temperatures will plummet to normal for this time of year, with overnight lows falling into the minus double digits, the national weather forecaster predicted.

Alongside a drop in temperatures, Environment Canada also predicts blustering northwesterly winds, with central and eastern sections of the province hit the hardest by gusts between 60 and 90 kilometres per hour expected.

I guess this means summer is over.  Sigh.  I missed it.

Most of you know that Wendy struggles with major depressive disorder.  She has written about it a lot if you care.  It comes every summer and has been horrible since Oliver was born.  It manifests itself in some severe self-destructive behavior and since we are married and have two sons, it affects the boys and I as much or more than it does her.

You know what, for the first time in over 15 years, it never made an appearance.

Some friends have asked what the difference is.  She has been on medication for years and that hasn’t always helped as a large part of the depression is psychological but for whatever reason, it hasn’t hit this year.  I have some theories but here is the one that makes the most sense.

Two Christmases ago, I gave her two cameras for Christmas.  I was working at Don’s Photo and Wendy had asked for a new compact camera.  Well actually she didn’t but her camera sucked and she was accepting that fact.  I bought a Fujifilm JX600 compact camera for her and later that season, someone traded in an Olympus PEN EPL-2.  I got a good deal on it and bought it for her.  She cried when she opened the gift.  She said that she would never need another lens but a week later, Olympus had their 40-150mm lens on sale for $103 so she bought that for herself.

Last Christmas I bought her a 19mm Sigma f/2.8 Art lens which she loved.  Later on she bought herself a Sigma 60mm f/2.8 Art lens which I’ll be honest, I don’t know if she ever uses.  In March, I used some Christmas bonus money and bought her an Olympus OM-D E-M10.  It’s not Olympus’ professional camera but it’s a great camera and she loved it.

Being sick this summer, plans to go to the Fringe or the Jazz Festival were changed.  I would go home and sleep while Wendy would go out with the boys, always bringing the camera.  Instead of waiting for me to take the lead, she would just do something.  I realized that photography had made her more independent and helped her fix her relationship with Mark that the depression had damaged.

If they weren’t off taking some photos at the SaskTel Jazz Festival, they were off walking along Broadway grabbing a coffee and shooting some street shots, or going to Waskesiu to explore a trail or five.

I also think the positive feedback makes a difference.  When she would post about Jian Ghomeshi’s alleged crimes this summer, she would get hateful comments.  When she wrote about violence towards women in Guyana, she got hate mail and even angry responses from her (Guyanese) parents.  When she posted photos on Flickr, she got favorites from photographers she respected and questions about lens and settings.  Maybe finding the right community makes all the difference.

So yeah, personally it was a crappy summer with a leg that keeps getting worse but as a family, it was a great summer because for the first time in a very long time, the grey clouds of depression never came by.

Mark

Since Mark was attacked on Wednesday, some of you have shared some incredible stories of your own.  I have read them all, shared many with Mark, and will reply to most of them next week.    I am stunned at the amount of violent attacks that people have suffered, most of them random over the years but as many of you have said, no one seemed to care unless you know someone.  A friend of mind reminded me of the murder of Scott Asher who I went to school with.  Another one reminded me of a friend who still suffers brain injuries.  Random attacks with lasting consequences.

This isn’t the first time something random happened to Mark.  He was sitting with some friends at A.H. Browne Park one early evening and a guy threw a container of urine at the group.  Another day just a block away, a prostitute who was working the street at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon attacked him and Ollie demanding money.  Luckily they were able to run away.  Life in Mayfair.

I have been asked how Mark is recovering.   His jaw still hurts but it is healing.  His headaches are gone and he seems to be responding better.  He will walk to and from school tomorrow.  As he said today, he has to do it sometime and it may as well be on Monday.  The worst thing happened today when a friend’s mother offered to bring him cookies to make him feel better.  He can’t chew them.  Rather than risk more injury, Oliver and the dog have offered to eat them.

He has been out of the house walking the dog.  Tonight was his first time being out at night since the attack.  When I asked him if there was any problems he said, “other than walking the dog, no.” 

Most of the emails and people stopping by have been really helpful and kind.  Some of them were really weird and some are just dangerous.

  • A few people emailed me and suggested that Mark must be involved in drugs or gangs.  It’s like random violence can’t ever happen.  I understand the fear and the need to rationalize it but the need to blame victims isn’t helpful.
  • Some wondered if race was a factor and that got dark quickly.
  • One teacher,  yes a teacher told me that she thinks the only way that teens will be safe from the police is if they join a gang.  I really don’t know what to do with that one.  It Donald Trump crazy on so many levels.  I think she read the joke that Mark said to Darren Hill in which he said, “I don’t blame police unless I find out it was them that hit me with the Emergency Response Vehicle”.  Of course he had just finished reading about the police that ran over the dog three times and claimed they thought it was a coyote.  Anyways, it was bizarre to think that a teacher in Saskatoon thinks that “gangs are the answer”.  I also think I have read comments on The StarPhoenix over the years by that teacher where he/she espouses the same thing.
  • More than one person has asked if I would consider letting Mark carry a knife for his own protection.  Again, that is getting crazy.  Mark has a knife and he carries it in a backpack on hikes.  That it is it.  As I have told him, the only time to use this is for making a fire and if a Grizzly Bear challenges you straight up to a knife fight.  I can’t envision a single instance where any kid pulling a knife in self defense ends well and a lot of cases where it ends tragically. 

So yeah, appreciated the supportive comments, thought I would share some of the weirder ones.  Mark got a kick out of the weird ones too.  He’s going to pass on it, unless he find a gang of knife wielding grizzly bears, then he is in.

I have some more serious thoughts on it in The StarPhoenix tomorrow.

18 years

I have been married for 18 years today to Wendy.   I was off all week from work so she was pretty much sick of me by the time today came around.

It was a long week.  We had a deal with Mark that he had to work hard in school and hand in all of his homework on time if he wanted to play football.  After backing down and giving him one more chance earlier in the year, he did it again and so I made the really hard choice to say, “no more football.”  He was mad, hurt, and frustrated but on Thursday we had a long talk about it and on Friday we went for breakfast and he understood that football was hurting him academically.

Of course the reason we went for breakfast on Friday was he was out of school because of parent teacher interviews.  His teachers love him, his marks are good but they would be amazing if he got his assignments done.  It was good for him to hear both those messages. 

Yesterday I was sick again.  The infectious disease specialist warned me that I could have flare ups of the infection and yesterday was horrible.  I had a fever, was in incredible pain, and even was struggling to breath.  I slept for a lot of the day and then Wendy and I went out to The Odd Couple restaurant and had a wonderful time.  We had plans to go out for a drink afterwards but I was exhausted so we cam home.

Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 II ASPH. LensI gave Wendy a new lens for our anniversary.  It’s a Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 II ASPH. Lens.  She has some good lenses but nothing this fast and so she is excited about it.  I had bought it a couple of months ago and she knew she was getting one.  I gave it to her early for Nuit Blanche.  She tested it out on this photo shoot with Marley.

I also got her a backpacking hammock.  Wendy works hard and doesn’t always take the time to relax.  My fear was with us in the mountains was that she was going to spend a lot of time making sure we were happy and not enough time chilling out.  This way I can force her (or guilt her) into taking some time and spending it on herself.  She liked it and I was happy with that.

She gave me a Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW camera bag.   I had been looking for a camera bag that can carry all of my stuff, plus some of the stuff I want to buy.  This bag basically is the bag to rule all of my bags.  That and Mark is thrilled because he can have my old bag.

So now I basically look like a balding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.  If you hear reports of middle age and balding mutant ninja turtles turned vigilante in the sewers of Saskatoon, I have an alibi.

She also got me an Altec Lansing Soundblade which will sound great in the living room.

Focus on Saskatchewan

Ford Focus on Saskatoon

Day 2 with the 2015 Ford Focus saw us say goodbye to Moose Jaw and head south towards Ogema, Saskatchewan.  First we had to get a photo with Mac the Moose.

2015 Ford Focus and Mac the Moose in Moose JawMac the Moose in Moose Jaw

Of course in the most Saskatchewan of things, the photo was photobombed by a CT-114 Tutor, otherwise known as the plane flown by the Snowbirds.

As we made our way south, we stopped in Rouleau, the home of Corner Gas and also known as Dog River.

The set of Corner Gas is a lot smaller than you would think.  It’s also falling apart.  There were reports that someone was going to turn it into a gift shop or a museum but nothing has been done with it.

We saw the home of the Dog River Howler, the Dog River Hotel, Oscar and Emma Leroy’s house and of course the surveillance bush.

The Dog River Howler in Rouleau, SaskatchewanThe Dog River Hotel in Rouleau, SaskatchewanDog River The set of Corner Gas in Dog River, SaskatchewanThe set of Corner Gas in Dog River, Saskatchewan

Then it was to Ogema where we grabbed lunch at the Rolling Hills Restaurant, checked out the old Fire Hall and the British American Gas Station.  By the time we did that, it was off to the Southern Prairie Railway, a tourist railway that took us from Ogema to what is left of Horizon, Saskatchewan. 14 miles away.

Southern Praire Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanIMGP1415Southern Praire Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Praire Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Praire Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Praire Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Praire Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Praire Railway in Ogema, Saskatchewan

This is what is left of Horizon, Saskatchewan.

Federal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, SaskatchewanFederal Grain Elevator in Horizon, Saskatchewan

A quick summary of what we learned on the trip

  • Steam locomotives were slow.  Only about 15 miles per hour.  No wonder thieves targeted trains.  They were loud, slow moving, and predictable.
  • Small Saskatchewan towns were placed 7 miles apart because that is how far a farmer could deliver grain in a day back then.  Some say it was to refuel and water the steam engines but nope, it’s about grain delivery.
  • Driving south of Moose Jaw on Highway 6 was the most isolated I have ever felt.  No houses for as far as the eye can see.  Considering at one time every section would have had a home on it, it’s incredible to think I was seeing hundreds of sections from on our drive with almost no signs of life.
  • You can still get parts for Pullman cars.
  • Each top window in the Pullman car we road in was a different size.
  • Never underestimate the spirit of rural Saskatchewan to take on impossible projects.
  • Horizon, Saskatchewan went from a vibrant rural community to only having two buildings left because of property taxes.  The government offered them a hospital but the town turned it down because they were afraid property taxes would rise in town.  This lead to the hospital going to Bengough (which is booming by the way) and eventually Highway 13 being moved.  This killed the town and today there is only a decommissioned Federal Grain elevator there.
  • I was shocked at how well built grain elevators are.  They were built out of 2x4s or 2x6s laying flat and nailed together with one foot spikes holding them together.  Each board would have 50 to 60 spikes driven into it making them built to last.
  • Locomotive collectors are a unique breed who care more about finding a good home for their locomotives then selling them.  The on that Southern Prairie Railway bought had to keep the livery colors or the original owner.  Coincidently the livery colors matched the owners of the short line railroad that own the tracks.

After we were done, it was back into the Ford Focus and then home.  It was shorter to come home via Regina so we did that.   This is what I learned about the Ford Focus

  • All of the highways we went on were in good condition but some were smoother than others.  The Focus gave a nice ride on all of them.
  • As I wrote yesterday, the car is quiet on the highway.
  • I managed to figure out who was at fault over the Google Maps weirdness, I am pretty sure the bug is with Google Maps.
  • Drink holders.  It has 8 of them.  This is great for travelling with kids.  The boys had their Nalgene water bottles with them as did Wendy and I.  Yet if you grab a coffee or a drink with a meal, you still need another one.  The Ford Focus has them.  It’s almost as if Ford engineers travel with children.
  • According to Mark and Oliver, the stereo sounds great in the back seat.  Ford’s stereo does compensate for road noise and can focus on the driver or the entire car.  It was a big hit.
  • I looked everywhere for it.  The stereo offers me an option to plug my iPod into a line in port but I couldn’t find one.  I may have missed it but I think it is a mistake in the stereo menus.
  • Handling is fine.  I wasn’t rally racing but around Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, and then Ogema, the car handled wonderfully.

Would I buy one?  Well Wendy and I talked at length about getting one (probably the hatchback) when we got back to Saskatoon.  That should tell you our feelings about the car.  It’s a car that is really worth buying.

Back to Football

Mark is trying out for Bedford Road’s senior football team this year.  After playing every position on the defense last year, he decided to test himself against some older and stronger players.  If he makes the team great, if not he will have tried and gotten some work in than if he had just played junior football.

Since practices start on Monday, it meant that we had to get him some gear this weekend.  His cleats and gloves fit but we ran out after work to get him some shorts and some stay dry shirts.  While we were at it, we picked up some cross trainers.  All this so he can increase his chance of long term brain injury by playing football or developing cancer by playing football on the shredded toxic waste we call SMF Field

Of course Oliver was in a bad mood over this.  Despite only going into grade two, he can’t figure out why he can’t play tackle football yet.  Apparently all other sports suck and aren’t worth his time.  He has some time to wait until Grade 6 when Kinsmen Football starts.  He isn’t impressed.  He’ll be even less impressed when Mark takes off to play football.

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada in Banff National Park

We used to come to Cave & Basin National Historic site quite a bit when I was a kid.  It wasn’t as big of deal back then and it was much more poorly lit as you entered the Cave part (which I loved).  So having not been there since 1983, it was nice to head back and see what has changed.  Of course taking the boys back here was great and they enjoyed it quite a bit. 

After the crowds of Lake Louise and Johnston Canyon, a quieter venue was a great way to kill an hour or so while the boys learned about the history of the place and it’s roll in the founding of our National Parks.

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

So this is the cave part of Cave and Basin.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

It used to be a hot springs where people would come from all over to bathe in.  Those days are long gone but Parks Canada has recreated the bath area of the hot springs.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

Two of Parks Canada famed red chairs were waiting for me to sit down and relax in.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

This is the basin part of the Cave and Basin.  There are endangered Banff snails in there and the smell is quite sulfur-ish.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaIMGP0463The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

It’s Batman and Wendy exploring the lower levels.  Mark and I were enjoying a cool breeze on the upper deck.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

The green roof of the Parks Canada gift shop which has an assortment of Parks Canada and Banff gear that you won’t see anywhere else in the town of Banff.  It alone is worth checking out.

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

If for some reason you want to see some more photos of Cave and Basins National Historic site, check out my album on Flickr.

Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

While in Banff National Park, Wendy and I took the boys up to Johnston Canyon which was insanely busy.  The parking lot was packed and by the time we left, people were parking over a kilometre in both ways down the Bow Valley Parkway.   We had plans to take the boys to the upper waterfalls.

So as the sign says, it is a 1 km hike to the first falls.  Yet when I started the Map My Hike app on my iPhone, it said that it was 4k with a return hike. 

Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

I think I have met these three people before.

Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

They enjoyed the walk.  They weren’t tired but the progress was at a standstill because there was a group taking selfie’s up ahead.

Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

This is my favorite shot from the hike.

The hike along Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

A Parks Canada employee has what looks to be a long and wet day ahead of him.

Parks Canada employee preparing for what looks to be a long days work at Johnston Canyon in Prince Albert National Park

IMGP0396Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

This is the legendary lower falls of Johnston Canyon.  We had planned to go to the upper falls but as the photos show, the crowds were brutal and the antibiotics I had to deal with the infection in my ankle hadn’t beaten the infection back very far.  Combined it meant that it would be a long hike and since we are coming back next summer to hike to the inkpots, it wasn’t a big deal to call it a day and dodge the selfie sticks back to the car.

Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

I think we can all agree that I nailed this picture of a chipmunk.

 Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

Did I mention that the trail was packed.  This is the main reason why we didn’t go to the second falls.  So many people (and my ankle was really hurting me).  Also, most of the people we passed on the trail were looking at their phones.  Apparently world class scenery and nature doesn’t compete well with Angry Birds.

 Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

If you want to see more photos from Johnston Canyon, check out the full set on Flickr.